Retaliation for Complaining
Labor & Employment Law
Complaints of Discrimination
You cannot be retaliated against by your employer for complaining about, objecting to, and/or participating in an investigation of workplace discrimination based on protected characteristics under federal or state law. Protected characteristics recognized by federal, state and/or local laws include race, sex, color, national origin, religion, pregnancy, disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation and military service.
What qualifies as complaining about, objecting to or participating in an investigation about workplace discrimination?
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well under the Florida Civil Rights Act, if you have taken any of the below steps in an effort to bring discrimination or harassment in your workplace to light, they are considered “protected activities” and you employer cannot take adverse action against you:
- Filing a Charge of Discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC);
- Filing a Charge of Discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR);
- Filing a complaint of discrimination with a local municipal Office of Human Rights;
- Complaining internally to your employer (verbally or in writing) about discrimination based on a protected characteristic; or
- Participating in an investigating regarding discrimination or harassment.
When complaining internally, it is always best to complain in writing and keep a copy of your written complaint, along with who you sent it do and when.
What constitutes a prohibited adverse employment action?
An adverse employment action includes anything that would dissuade a reasonable worker from complaining about discrimination. In other words, an employee would be reluctant to complain about discrimination if they knew that they would be terminated for making their complaint. Some of the most commonly recognized adverse employment actions include:
- Reduction in pay or hours;
- Less desirable working conditions;
- Lost bonus;
- Denial of a raise in pay;
- Transfer to another location;
- Unwarranted write-ups or disciplinary actions.
Additionally, retaliation can also be a collection of events or adverse actions over a period of time intended to punish or get back at you for engaging in the protected activity. If you are experiencing ongoing retaliation, it is very important to keep a record of when you first complained, and the date of each subsequent retaliatory action.
Is there a deadline to file a retaliation claim?
Yes, and these deadlines are very strict, so if you feel you have been retaliated against, please pursue your claims as soon as possible, or seek advice from an experienced employment law attorney.
- EEOC under Federal Law. The deadline in Florida to file a retaliation claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is 300 days from when you first knew or should have known of the retaliatory event or action.
- FCHR under Florida Statutes. You have a couple of extra months to file with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, as that deadline is 365 days from when you first knew or should have known of the retaliation.
- Offices of Human Rights. Under local municipal codes, your deadline to file a claim for retaliation is based on the specific municipality (city or county), and can range anywhere from 60 days to 365 days from when you first knew or should have known of the retaliatory action.
Based on this wide range of potential deadlines, it is very important to pursue your claims for retaliation as soon as possible.
What kind of remedies are available for a retaliation claim?
If you file a claim for retaliation against your employer and are successful, you may be entitled to the following remedies:
- Reimbursement of lost wages;
- Restoration of or repayment for lost benefits;
- Reinstatement to your job;
- Front pay, which is what you would have earned in the future after trial if you cannot be reinstated;
- Emotional damages;
- Attorneys’ fees and costs; and
- Injunctive relief.
If you believe you are being retaliated against by your employer because you complained about discrimination or harassment in the workplace, we urge you to seek legal advice from an experienced employment attorney, like those at Sass Law Firm, who can review your situation and provide you with options and the support you need.